“I have been involved with business in the Soviet Union and Russia since 1959, and Putin has provided the best leadership the country has ever had. PepsiCo is very happy to have Russia as its biggest international market. It is planning to put $1 billion into Russia over the next two years, bringing a ten-year total to $10 billion.”
Mr. Kendall’s favorable account of international investment is echoed by that of GE, Cisco, Nokia, Unilever, and Siemens, among others.
THE MONITOR'S VIEW: Helping Russia avoid Putin kleptocracy
Second, there is the portrait of Putin as the arch-authoritarian. To be sure, Putin is, to use the celebrated phrase of my friend, the political scientist Michael Mandelbaum, no “Scandinavian democrat.” But again, we should hark back to Mr. Yeltsin. The political consequence of his authoritarian economic policies was a stalemate between the executive and legislative branches that paralyzed the state. Yeltsin sought to disband the legislative branches of government by decree and, in a final act of desperation, called in the Army to attack the parliament building, resulting in 500 deaths and over 1000 wounded.
In comparison to Yeltsin’s record, couldn’t Putin be seen as a great leap forward from his predecessor rather than as a reversion to authoritarianism?
Third, we have Putin the ultranationalist. The man cannot win. On the one hand, for example, he is criticized for buying loyalty from Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics with lavish subsidies. Certainly, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is an unsavory character, but should Putin be condemned for trying to hold Russia together? After all, the US fought a bloody civil war to do just that.
There is another crucial factor here: the strategic position of the Caucasus, which is highly unstable, and potentially ripe for Islamic jihadist extremist forces to the South. It would scarcely be in Russia’s security interest simply to cut loose the Caucasus states.